Aleksandra Mir

Cinema for the Unemployed - Interview

Klassekampen, Oslo, 23 May 1998
By Guri Kulaas

Guri Kulaas: How did you come up with the idea, why a cinema for the unemployed?

Aleksandra Mir: It started with a joke. After seeing Titanic, I told somebody close that 'things could have been worse' But I had also been occupied by the thought of how differently unemployment is perceived by people; as a tragedy for some, and as a break from responsibility for others.

Have you prepared anything else in the cinema apart from the screenings?

There will be posters and information materials from the local unemployment office as part of their sponsor agreement. And the management of Tivoli Amfi will also keep the bar open at all times, as part of the deal to use the theatre. I will agree to whatever it takes to get the project off the ground, but I also look forward to new, unexpected results that this could bring. The printed matter from the unemployment office happens to depict various administrative disasters (a guy sinking on his desk, in a pile of applications). And who knows what such access to beer could lead to?

What is your role during the screenings?

To be a good hostess. I am actually employed by the project. Someone has to keep an eye on practical things, make sure that the films are running and clean up.

Although art today is developing in new directions, and is stepping out of the gallery space, yours is quite an unusual approach. It is project based, interactive and only exists for a brief amount of time. Why have you chosen this form of expression?

None of these formal elements are particularly new. I find it a bit embarrassing that my generation is gaining credit for something that is as accessible to us as blue paint. Ephemerality and site specificity is not very dramatic at all in the 90's but were radical means of expression in the 60's. For me, to choose this model of working is a much more lifestyle oriented decision. I travel a lot. I don't have a studio. I don't like carrying luggage or paying for storage. But wherever I am, I spend at least eight hours a day on the computer or by the phone. And I document everything I do - like a tourist.

How do you develop new projects, what challenges and inspires you?

I am motivated by existing conflict in my daily surrounding. If such a thing as 'unemployment' can take two possible directions; tragedy and leisure, I know it can function in an art project and lead me onto new meanings and revelations.

Your work also seems to have a social agenda. You create artistic situations where you stimulate thought in the viewer and maybe also social actions. That is almost a subversive project where you explore power structures, in particular male power structures (as in 'Life is Sweet in Sweden'), if but in a playful way.

I am not interested in using art for subversive reasons alone. It would be very boring art if it just stopped there, and it would mean I would have to decide on knowing things that I don't know. But I am happy to test well know subversive strategies, only to see them fail, or lead to new, unexpected forms of subversion.

What is the relationship between your 'voice' as an artist, and the interactive part in your work where the audience engages in the artwork?

I think that my concrete job as an artist is to come up with an idea that has the strength to evolve around itself and that will engage me in contemporary society. Thereafter, it is all a question of productive circumstance and I become PR-person, a fundraiser, a secretary, a hostess, a producer, a cleaning lady - any role that the project will demand of me. In the same way, the audience has a choice according to their own interests and predispositions to become part of the project at any level. Some people will at a given moment be more engaged at the center of it than others. That is OK. Next day, this may change. I don't believe in a clean, unpolluted encounter. So situations like these are complex, but the public can alo easily be broken down into agents: viewers of the films, viewers of the show, viewers of the viewers—everyone gets their piece of the cake.

What results do you expect from the Cinema for the Unemployed project?

That it will lead me to new ideas and new opportunities to realize them.

And what are you planning next?

I have some ideas for monumental sculpture, but I'll have to wait for the means to do that. In the meanwhile, I'll be collecting butterflies.